The running joke that Jerry Lewis gets more buddy love in France than at home is part of what drives producer-director Gregg Barson’s besotted but sharply crafted “Method to the Madness of Jerry Lewis.” This celeb-stuffed, Encore channel-bound biodocu calls American attention to the bold comic/cinematic innovations of an actor-writer-producer-director-composer-marketer-financier-entrepreneur-kook whom Gallic crix such as Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard understood right away. Captured during his recent world tour, the still-nutty eightysomething does nothing to disabuse Barson of his notion that Lewis remains an underappreciated genius, while copious film clips and talking heads, including Eddie Murphy, make the case persuasively.Unfortunately, there’s nothing in the pic’s two hours of which exec producer Lewis wouldn’t approve — which is to say there’s no mention of the auteur’s notorious, long-invisible 1971 Holocaust feature “The Day the Clown Cried,” nor of the close kinship between his decade-long partner Dean Martin and the skuzzy yet oddly endearing Mr. Hyde of 1963′s “The Nutty Professor.” But Lewis speaks eloquently of his comic philosophy, and Barson’s sections on the auteur’s experimental use of sound and wholesale invention of video-assist technology are — no kidding — essential.
An Anchor Bay Films presentation of a Mansfield Avenue production. (International sales: Starz Media, Los Angeles.) Produced by Gregg Barson. Executive producers, Jerry Lewis, Julie Ashton, Barson. Directed by Gregg Barson.
Camera (color/B&W, HD), Peter Good; editor, Jim Ruxin; music, Kenny Meriedeth; sound, Warren Kleiman. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Cannes Classics), May 19, 2012. Running time: 116 MIN.
Jerry Lewis, Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino, Eddie Murphy, Carol Burnett, Woody Harrelson, Alec Baldwin, Billy Crystal, Jerry Seinfeld, Carl Reiner, Richard Lewis, John Landis, Chevy Chase, Richard Belzer.